The Songbook of William of Villehardouin, Prince of Frankish Greece
from 01:30 PM to 03:00 PM
A deluxe songbook (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, f. fr. 844) survives that once belonged to the greatest Prince of Frankish Greece, or Morea, William of Villehardouin. William’s book owed to a well established, international activity of making Romance songs anthologies. The history of William’s songbook is here seen through the lives of his three wives. Following his courtly French upbringing in Crusader Greece, William married an anonymous lady of Toucy. His alliance with the powerful house of Toucy made him an ally of the king of France. William’s second marriage to Carintana dalle Carceri marked the apogee of his reign and of Frankish Greece. So powerful was the prince at this time that he aspired to become Emperor of Constantinople. William commissioned his songbook on his return from the Seventh Crusade, where he had met important trouvères such as the King of France’s brother Charles of Anjou. A compendium of international scope, the songbook was modeled on anthologies from Sicily and northern Italy, and compiled by scribes from northern France. It was nearing completion when the death of William’s second wife Carintana precipitated the decline of his principality. A last minute alliance to Epiros by a third marriage to Anna Doukaina failed to improve the situation. In 1259, William was taken prisoner by the Greeks, and his precious songbook suffered mutilations. The emperor of Constantinople eventually handed Morea over to Charles of Anjou, who became William’s lord. Evidence from the songbook makes clear that Charles became its new owner sometime around 1270, eight years before William died.